Emory Law Journal


Juveniles should hold the right to a jury trial under the U.S. Constitution, but they do not. In most states, when a trial occurs, a single judge determines whether a youth loses their liberty, and that imprisonment can last for years. The United States Supreme Court has decided that the Sixth Amendment right to a jury is irrelevant; prosecution in juvenile court is not a criminal prosecution within the meaning of the Sixth Amendment because the purpose of the juvenile courts is a good one—to rehabilitate youth. The Court has also held that the right to a jury trial is not required under the due process clause because juries are not essential to factfinding. By exploring the unexamined meaning of criminal prosecution in the Sixth Amendment, rejecting the Supreme Court’s use of the state’s good purpose, and probing the neglected historical right to a jury trial for juveniles, this Article challenges the common assumption that juveniles do not hold the right to a jury trial.